Victim's ordeal continues

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 11/10/2012

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The woman who slapped away a gun held to her head by the man convicted of the infamous rates day robbery of Palmerston North City Council has welcomed the decision to keep him behind bars.

Winston James Shane Young, formerly of Bunnythorpe, is serving a nine-year, 10-month prison sentence for the 2006 robbery and separate domestic violence offending.

His latest bid for freedom, made late last month, was turned down.

In a decision released to the Manawatu Standard, the Parole Board says to release Young, it would have to be satisfied he will not pose an undue risk to the public.

About $42,000 was never recovered after Young held up two customer services staff members as they cashed up on the final day of rates payments on May 26, 2006.

One of those workers was Palmerston North woman Sharleen Strawbridge, who bravely batted the robber's gun away from her head.

Seven years later she now works at Medlab, having studied for a couple of years at UCOL.

She still suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, although she credits good counselling and the help of friends for helping her through this.

"I haven't had a full night's sleep since it happened. I still hear noises, but I'm learning to live with it,"  Strawbridge said.

"I still get a bit of a shock with people walking up behind me."

She was pleased Young was denied parole, and was thinking about having her say to the Parole Board before his next go.

"It's hard to take when after a couple of years they are applying to get out. He made his choices."

On the day of the robbery, Strawbridge and fellow worker, Julie-Ann Robinson, were cashing up.

Strawbridge was gaining access to the safe when she saw a pair of boots in her peripheral vision. Then Young stepped out from behind a door and put a gun to her head.

The 2009 High Court trial heard that Strawbridge twice "took a swipe" at it, but Young brought the gun back to her head and told her to calm down.

Looking back, Strawbridge cannot understand her actions, but said she would often jump into situations to help out - including on the rugby league field, where she is a referee. "I had five brothers. I grew up as a sort of a tomboy and I always reacted if one of them did something. I thought [Young] was going to shoot me regardless.

"I was just fighting for my life," she said. "I didn't sleep for three days after it. It affects you in lots of different ways. If affects your family, it affects your friends. One of my friends said just a while ago, it's so long since I heard you laugh."

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Although it took a back seat during her study, she started writing down her experiences and thought she might one day try to get it published. It might provide help for people going through something similar, she said.

At the trial, the man alleged to have worked with Young, Kenneth Craig Woods, was acquitted. Woods was  Robinson's flatmate and allegedly had inside knowledge of council systems.

Strawbridge said she didn't get a lot of support from the council during the court process and was often sitting alone in the witness room waiting to give evidence.

"The intimidation was shocking. I'd get phone calls when there's nobody there. I still do, round about the anniversary. I just put the phone down and walk away."

As well as refereeing, Strawbridge keeps active by playing indoor netball, basketball and biking.

Young took his case unsuccessfully to the Court of Appeal, but was denied a Supreme Court hearing.

His parole report says a proposed release address is unsuitable, although his prisoner security classification has been downgraded from high to low. Young has not been able to undertake any rehabilitative programme in prison, nor "embrace the prospect of doing one with any enthusiasm".

The Parole Board concluded a release to work programme could be an option.

Young has a long criminal history and was convicted of aggravated robbery in 1988 after he held up the Wellington City Council with a firearm.

- Manawatu Standard

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